Catalyst (Breakthrough #3), by Michael C. Grumley

Eight stars

Michael C. Grumley is back with another thrilling ride that further explores nature and the secrets it holds. Picking up soon after the previous novel ended, Grumley pulls the reader in with new excitement as geo-political conflict increases against a backdrop of a sensational new discovery in a remote jungle. With a handful of key players doing their part, it will be a race for answers, while keeping things somewhat secret until it can all be synthesised. There is action and even some sorrow, but something electrifying is pushing the story forward, into a world of extreme unknowns. Another winner by Michael C. Grumley that will have series fans on the edge of their seats, demanding more!

The tense nature of the previous novel’s end comes crashing into the opening pages of this piece, as the story kicks into high gear. The Chinese are baffled as to what’s happened to their warship and can only surmise that it must be the Americans who have tried to foil their plans. However, there is the added confusion as to what was going on in South America that has high-ranking officials even more confused. Someone’s been hiding something essential and it could mean weakness, even a political coup gathering momentum. To allow such a crack would be unheard of within the communist hierarchy.

On the other side of the world, someone’s killed a powerful man in South America likely because he knew something of some importance. While US Navy investigators John Clay and Steve Caesare are aware, they must dodge accusations that they might have been involved, while also getting to the root of the issue. It surrounds a group of capuchin monkeys, some of whom are showing some highly unique qualities pertaining to prolonged life. Could there be something in their DNA that holds the answers many have sought for centuries to locate? Caesare takes on the task of learning what he must, while dodging those who would do him harm all the while.

In Puerto Rico, marine biologist Alison Shaw continues to work with her two dolphins, Sally and Dirk, learning much about their life experiences through some of her high-tech communication software. Shaw has also discovered the healing capabilities of these two, when a young girl who has been diagnosed with a severe illness emerges unscathed from a swim in their tank. Shaw has also been working on expanding her communication tool, working with a young gorilla, Dulce, which has helped to expand the parameters of understanding between the species.

While John Clay travels to learn some of the secrets behind the veil of secrecy in China, Steve Caesare focuses his attention on the South American adventure. Both find themselves in a great deal of trouble as they peel things back a little more, understanding that the properties of some plant in the Guyanese forests could hold the answer for everyone. However, the revelations come with new risks and added dangers that could, and will, leave someone dead. This is sure to send shockwaves across the team and leave Alison to wonder if she has taken one step too many in her quest to better understand what’s going on in the world and how other animals can piece together than which humans do not fully comprehend.

And then there is the vault that’s been located on a remote island… and a second one that is filled with embryos. What is it and who built it? It’s a mystery that adds new layers of excitement and thrills to an already complex story!

Michael C. Grumley continues to construct a strong series that pushes the limits and possibilities, keeping some readers on the defensive. While science fiction has never been an area of particular interest for me, I’ve found myself drawn to the stories, plots, and even some of the characters. Grumley mixes together thrilling plots, curious scientific discoveries, and great development to keep the reader pushing forward.

The book offers series fans a great look at a number of protagonists, each pushing their respective plotline forward. John Clay and Alison Shaw have had some time in the limelight, but their growth continues in this piece, both in their own spheres and together. Each holds onto the reader’s attention as they progress through the story, captivating it with ease. Additing Steve Caesare to the mix provides some interesting flavour to the narrative and offers another perspective to keep the reader’s attention hooked. His grit and determination, partnered with some well-deserved humour, keeps things light when it serves him well, while never missing a chance to show his abilities.

The secondary characters Grumley peppers throughout the story keep things on point. Returning characters are especially important for this piece, as the action connects with the previous novel, though there are new faces and flavourings that keep the story from getting too repetitive. There are some who complement the political undertone of the story, while others make their impact through the science side of things. There is surely something for everyone in this piece, with a supporting cast sure to appeal to a large cross-section of readers.

Grumley offers more great plots and decent characters in this bridging novel. The narrative flowed well where it needed to keep the reader engaged and educated in the scientific aspects to provide a new spin and something a little ‘out of this world’. Wonderful dialogue highlights some of the strong characters Grumley developed, provided needed humour and moments of tension to enrich the reader experience. A mix of chapter lengths works to lure the reader in and strings them along, allowing them to feel a strong part of the building action. I continue to surprise myself by finding such an interest in this series, as sci fi is something I usually leave to others.

Kudos, Mr. Grumley, for another intense read. Let’s see what else is out there.

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